When Sean Aiken, D.M.D., graduated from the University of Louisville in 2018, he did what many new dentists looking for a job today: an associateship. Well, for him, it was two associateships in two separate practices in the Louisville area.
One of those practices, Dr. Aiken said, needed some modernizing and upgrading — it was still using paper charts.
But how does a fresh-out-of-school employee dentist influence decision-making in an office led by a practice owner with decades of experience?
“You don’t want to come in with vastly different practice philosophies and make demands,” he said. “You can really turn people off, including the owner docs who have spent 30 to 40 years building their practice.”
Katie Stuchlik, D.D.S., said it’s a common challenge among new dentists in associateships.
“It’s difficult to have much of a voice in materials and instruments used in the office,” said Dr. Stuchlik, who joined a practice as an associate after graduating in 2015 from the University of Texas School of Dentistry. “One of my friends doesn’t even have adequate suction in an office he works in, and another asked to order instruments and was told he can use what’s in the office. My experience hasn’t been far from each of theirs.”
Drs. Aiken and Stuchlik, who today are now practice owners themselves, share some insights on how associate dentists can have a more active role in their practice. Dr. Stuchlik co-owns a practice she opened in 2018 in Houston; and in 2020, Dr. Aiken bought the Louisville practice he once helped modernize.